Head Chef Tiago Sabarigo claims to demand strict discipline in the kitchen, but he also works 14-16 hours per day himself. However, when one enters the restaurant, does not see tired faces or gets dishes produced on a conveyor belt. "The secret is inspiration" – says the chef smiling.
Since it was officially announced that Costes Downtown is the fifth Michelin Star Restaurant in Hungary, there is a real buzz inside. The restaurant, operating in the hall of Prestige Hotel, is often visited by journalists, and crowded with curious guests. The atmosphere, however, is very peaceful, everybody does their duties respectfully with a smile on the face. The spirit of the place is rejoicing, the staff is nice, fireside and accommodating - even though they are experiencing busy days.
Tiago Sabarigo chef has been a leader of the team since last year. We ask him about how it was possible for such a young restaurant to achieve this overriding result, and how he can keep being cheerful and passionate in such a strict and busy kitchen.
Costes Downtown was opened in June, 2015. This is the first time for you to win a Michelin Star. What is your secret behind this?
The secret is hard work, and that one has to know, how to motivate the people with whom he works with. Here we have the chance to use the best ingredients and we have the knowledge to use them in the right way.
Regarding my side: I have already worked in a Michelin Star restaurant, and I can teach my team how to work on that quality. The secret is investing much effort to the work, and I am also motivated, and enjoy what I do.
It cannot be easy to keep working, being creative and teaching the team at the same time…
It is not easy, we have very long days, but the team is good and keen. Of course, it is not easy to find properly trained co-workers in Hungary, but when someone comes, and I see that they really want to do it and willing to learn and improve is say let's do it.
They have to want it, and I must know how to motivate them, how to introduce new things. We often work 16 long hours, but we are lucky: my staff can rest 2 and a half or 3 days a week due to their shifts. They have the time to relax and stay creative.
There are cycles in the restaurant. Every day is a circle, and every season is too. They are all similar, but they cannot be absolutely the same. For example, every seasonal menu must differ from last year's, there must be something changed. Similarly, days cannot be all the same either. If one feels and knows how these cycles work, will be successful.
I worked in a Michelin Star restaurant in London, and there was noise and big shouting. I do not want to do it this way. I am very-very strict, but I think it is extremely important for the team to feel good. Sometimes they ask me doubtfully: "Is this a Michelin Star standard?" I tell them "I know it is. Now it's proven."
You are from Portugal, but you studied in London. Wasn't it frightening to come to Hungary? What did you know about the country?
I met Miguel (Miguel Roche Viera, executive chef of Costes and Costes Downtown) precisely 2 years ago. At that time I was being working in London, and I knew that I want to move on, so I was like: "Why not?". I must admit, I am just learning Hungarian gastronomy. I knew before my arrival what anybody else: heavy food, paprika and goulash.
What I saw from outside is that the restaurants here do an amazing job. Not only Costes, but many others as well. I think, if someone In Hungary is willing to take care of it, wants to do things well, and searches for knowledge, or has someone to show them the way, here every opportunities are given. Now I think, and that is what I hear from friends and colleagues too, that Hungary is not only another place for fine dining, but is one of the bests.
Is everything given here that is needed for a good restaurant?
The development is undoubtable and the catering places did an enormous work too. The continental finals of Bocuse d'Or was possible to be taken here – which is a very nice achievement, not all the countries are able to do this.
I try to use as many Hungarian materials as possible, because this is what is responsible and sustainable. I use local vegetable and cheese too. Fish is almost the only exception, the fogas Pike Perch is from Wien, but at least it is from river Danube.
How did your team react to the Michelin Star? Was it an aim to win?
András (manager F&B director of Costes and Costes Downtown) called me on the phone. I asked him: "Did we get the Star?" It was unbelievable, you can't be ready for this. At that time nothing was official yet, so we agreed that we won't tell it anyone. But then several calls came, and many got to know it. Some had tears in their eyes, others were like: "Wow!".
Michelin Star is always a target, but we do not cook for the guide, but for the guests. We do our job in the best way we can, and after a will it is going to have a result. As I told, I worked in a Michelin Star restaurant before. I know that it requires discipline and hard work, and that is what I want from the team.
Costes Downtown operates at the ground floor of Prestige Hotel. One of the sites wrote that you are the only restaurant in Budapest, where a Michelin Star breakfast is served. Is this true?
I believe in what we do, and my team believes in it too, so yes, every meal is prepared with the same consciousness. We provide breakfast and coffee breaks for the hotel and catering on demand, but not theirs are our only guests. When opening the restaurant, our aim was to hit the same level as Costes, but in a leisured way.
It seems to be successful. What is your aim today?
We get the Star, and now we have to keep it – I cannot think any further today. I cannot tell where we are going to be in 10 years, but I would be happy, if Costes Downtown would be among the best restaurants at that time. With me, or without me.
The team was surprised by the news as well: some of them thought that Costes Downtown would be a step and their aim was to move on to a Michelin Star restaurant. Now, this is a Michelin Star restaurant, so they do not have to go… But anyways, it is an infinite process. I hope, that those who come out of here will say: "I worked in Tiago Sabarigo's kitchen, and it was great."
3. and 4. images © Costes Downtown